With All Souls’ Day just around the corner (and to give me something to think about other than elections, debates, and the occasional fly), I’ve been casting about in the messy file cabinets of my mind. I seem to have opened the drawer of dreams, one I seem to open somewhat frequently, and thoughts have come pouring out, just waiting to be sorted out and organized.
One of the topics I seem to have in my dreams is places, some that I have been to and cherished for years and some that I have only experienced from videos and National Geographic magazine. I’ve also visited (or been visited by) people I love, both living and dead, whose presence quite often make me think and consider something from a new angle.
I visit the river that flows next to my hometown. This time I think of the Revolutionary War, the carnage and loss, and the boats and sailors lost in that river during the final days. Remains of those ships are still being discovered in the mud of the river bottom over 200 years after sinking. I see faces of people like Washington, Lafayette, Pulaski, and others, familiar through years of seeing their portraits hanging on museum and visitors’ center walls.
I visit imaginary towns, like Three Pines from the mystery series by Louise Penny. It reminds me of home – everybody knows everybody else and with very few secrets remaining unknown. It’s quiet, beautiful, and comforting. Yes, murder and disaster visit there with great regularity, but still, the village seems cozy, warm, and someplace I’d like to find in reality someday.
I’ve been to the England of my dreams many times, although never in the flesh. I’ve met the Queen on several of those occasions, where I am alternately a close friend, a servant, and an admirer. I make no secret that I am an unabashed fan of that lady, both for her devotion to duty and her engaging smile.
I’ve had visitations with friends who have died. It’s no secret they visit more often at this time of year than any other, but they are always welcome. Each one was a gift from God to me when I needed help, support, or just plain love, and each is a treasured memory. I do notice that politics, pandemics, and wars seldom invade my dreams, thankfully. There are usually enough everyday problems and stresses to deal with as much in dreamland as in my waking hours.
Very seldom do I dream of sacred figures – God, Jesus, the Spirit, saints, and martyrs. I wonder why not? I pray every night before I go to sleep, but I don’t see angels leaning over my bed with their wings arching over me in protection. Jesus never gives me answers to questions I have when I dream. The only time I remember seeing God was when an image of God stretching out his finger to Adam in the Creation panel of the Sistine ceiling. I wonder – had God been perceived as a woman, what would Michelangelo’s rendition of that moment be like?
I wonder what it would be like to have God visit in my dreams, perhaps giving me some advice or answering some questions I can’t seem to answer myself. It’s not about “Why do good people suffer, and bad people get away with their badness?” but more about “What is the one thing I can do to make the Kingdom of God come closer to reality on earth right now?” Now that would be a question worth asking, in my very humble opinion.
Perhaps a question I might add, whether in dream-state or awake and pondering, is, “What exactly do You mean by ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” Does that mean we should eschew executions in favor of life imprisonment for heinous criminals? Do we have the right to take lands away from people and tribes so that some already-rich folks can make more money? Do we separate infants and children from their parents to teach them not to try to break the law of a country that once proclaimed, “Give me your tired, your poor”? Is a world of fear and anger one You intended for us? Why do we no longer respect elders who have lived longer and seen more than anyone else, and who could offer so much knowledge? Why do we deny the wisdom and the stories they tell of massacres, holocausts, and trails of tears that they experienced but which are often rejected by the younger people?
Could dreams be a way of passing the message of the Kingdom on? Dreams in the Bible were important and respected as such. Do we need to look to our own dreams to see what can be learned or possibly put into action? Could our loved ones be heard from beyond death to give us messages that we need to hear? I can wonder about that, but I can also be aware that there is truth in that concept. I simply need to listen – and remember.